Saturday, October 17, 2015

Interview of Habermas on philosophy’s missions

In a recent interview (Web and PDF), Habermas emphasizes the importance of individuation:
...Every...step in the process of the socialization of a person, as they grow up, is simultaneously a step towards individuation and becoming oneself....reason does not lose the transcendental power of spontaneously projecting world-disclosing horizons. This 'creative' power of imagination expresses itself in every hypothesis, in every interpretation, in every story with which we affirm our identity. In every action there is also an element of creation…
That expresses a kind of theme that one may easily miss in Habermas' work, but which has always been implicit (and sometimes explicit). I find it in his 1962 essay on Hegel's Jena period ("Labor and Interaction," Theory and Practice) and manifoldly throughout Habermas' career.

But largely, the interview is a wonderful introduction to Habermas' view of philosophy. At the beginning, a reader might believe that the interview is another improvisation about his biography. Yet, it quickly becomes an overview of his thinking.

I'm particularly pleased to read him saying that "... My attitude to Theory and Practice—the book and topic at once—has not significantly changed since I wrote the introduction to the new edition of this book in 1971." This pleases me because that very long "Introduction" was axial for my understanding of Habermas in my early years. I'm also pleased to see him expressing fidelity to Theory of Communicative Action; he provides a fine overview of that book's motives.

You won't get a better, short introduction to Habermas than this late-life interview. This is not to say that Habermas claims for himself a foundationalist sense of philosophy, such that if you rigorously understand Habermas, you have a conceptual "machine" (algorithmic sufficiency), applicable to whatever practical issue.

As he expressed at the end of his 2007 "Language Game of Responsibility" (pp. 39-42), ultimately the horizon of Our conceptuality is open and evolving.